Return Of The Vibe – Part 2

Posted by edd_jedi on 3rd April 2019

For part 2 of this blog series about our collaboration with Stormtrooper Recordings for their 25th anniversary release, here’s some words from label owner Olly himself:

So when you opened that floppy disk for me and I saw the Stormtrooper helmet staring back at me, it was a face I hadn’t seen for a long time. I didn’t have a digital copy, and thought it was lost forever. It was the label artwork for the second release on Stormtrooper Recordings, so that disk probably hadn’t been loaded for almost exactly 25 years which feels a bit weird!

Stormtrooper Recordings came into existence roughly a year after I had started another record label, Underdog Recordings back in ’93 with a £2000 loan from the Prince’s Trust. They told me they didn’t like lending money to record labels as the failure rate was so high. Anyway, Underdog got off to a good start and put out some strong underground tunes starting with darkside hardcore and then moved through early Jungle/Drum & Bass and into the intelligent/ambient sound later on.

However around release 8 or 9 things slowed down for Underdog, there were a couple of remix releases that didn’t sell well, and by the summer of ’94 the cash flow had dried up so much that I was washing dishes in a restaurant for £3 an hour to make ends meet. I was a bit down in the dumps because I’d also just come back from a failed college course in London and got dumped by my girlfriend of 3 years around the same time, who I later found out had been cheating on me with some guy from Paultons Park (not such a “hoot hoot” for me!)

Around this time I had been going to various Drum & Bass nights like Speed at The Milk Bar and Metalheadz at Blue Note, and I was finding the atmosphere a bit flat compared to my favourite events at the time Labrynth at The Four Aces, and more locally in Bournemouth Juicy Fruit at Madisons. These nights were still playing uplifting piano hardcore with plenty of breakbeats and always had an up-for-it crowd.

One day I asked Dave and Shaun, who produced most of the Underdog material under various aliases, “can’t you make something with a piano in it?” It wasn’t really the musical direction they were going in, so for the first release they teamed up with Matt Storm (a resident DJ at Madisons) and Colin B and created two piano hardcore tunes which were the first release on Stormtrooper in late 1994.

What happened next was a complete turn around in fortunes for the labels and actually my life at the time. The first Stormtrooper release got instant support from the DJs who were pioneering the more uplifting sound. I put my mobile phone number on the label, and within days out of the blue I received a phone call from DJ Seduction asking if he could have any other tunes we had coming out exclusively on dub plate. DJ Sy phoned too, chasing future promos.

The record sold pretty well, and when I received the first months sales report I was able to jack in my job washing dishes and get back to putting out records full time. By complete fluke we had just caught the beginning of what became the happy hardcore scene (although some were trying to brand it as 4 beat.) I wasn’t the only one pining for the uplifting vibe. We quickly put ST 002 out which also sold quite well, and the revenue that was flowing in kept Underdog Recordings going too as it probably wouldn’t have been able to self fund otherwise.

After ST 002 DJ Brisk got in touch, and because he was from just up the road in Southampton we got him in to the Avon Road studio to co-produce the third and best selling release on Stormtrooper, “Floor Friction.” Stormtrooper Recordings went on to release over 20 records in to the early 2000s.

So fast forward 15 years, when Edd asked me if I was up for a 25th anniversary release after he helped retrieve the original Stormtrooper artwork, I was well up for it! I miss putting out records, the whole process from getting some tunes made, organising the cut, sending it to the factory to get pressed, sorting the artwork, getting the test presses back, and actually having something physical to show for your efforts! Then sending it to a distributor, getting the sales statement which hopefully results in everyone making some money.

If I’m honest I’m not as into happy hardcore as I once was, the early Stormtrooper releases were very beakbeat driven, not surprising considering the studio it came out of and the artists involved. I listened to a lot of it recently for the first time in 2 decades, I didn’t even have to dig my old records out, people have kindly uploaded them all to YouTube. The early ones still sound great to me, but happy hardcore got harder and faster and ended up as what we would have called gabba in 1994. The ethos behind Stormtrooper from the beginning and its subtitle “Return Of The Vibe” was a reaction to the moody darkness of jungle, going back to the ’92 ‘hands in the air’ piano hardcore. But by ’94 the 1992 sound was played out and too slow, so the tracks we put out were faster to keep up with everyone else.

Now that 25 years have passed, it’s not about keeping up with what everyone else is doing, you can do what you want! So I thought for this release I’d like to rewind back to ’92, which is my favourite era for rave music, and put out something that sounds like it’s from that period. I like working with people I’ve worked with in the past as long as the experience was positive, so I started the ball rolling and put my feelers out for who was up for making some banging ’92 style hardcore. To cut a long story short, within 2 hours of sending the first messages out I was being sent back sound clips from the studio, and within 48 hours had 2 absolute corkers signed and ready to go! And that was that, over 15 years since I last put a record out and a 10 year self-enforced break from music, it’s a return of the vinyl!

Olly @ The Avon Road Studio, Charminster, some time in ’94 (holding the first Burning Bush Communications vinyl!)

Big thanks to Olly for his words above. I’ll wrap up this blog post with sound clips for our 25th anniversary release, we hope you like the 1992 inspired tracks. Watch out for part 3 of this blog series for more history, revealing some special bundles and prizes exclusive to this release, and of course links to buy the record!

< Part 1 | Part 3 >